Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Carmen Aguirre on tabloid addiction and the view from her window

The playwright and author answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Carmen Aguirre is the author of Mexican Hooker #1. (carmenaguirre.ca)

Carmen Aguirre followed up her Canada Reads-winning debut, Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter, with a second memoir, Mexican Hooker #1: And My Other Roles Since the Revolution.

Below, Aguirre answers eight questions submitted by eight of her fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A. 

1. Marina Endicott asks, "What is the line of prose or poetry that comes to you in the dark night of your soul?"

So many! Today I will choose Gabriela Mistral's "We were all to be queens of four kingdoms on the sea." It comes to me in melancholy moments, when I lie in my bed in deepest darkest night travelling through time and space, remembering the innocence and certitude of childhood, tears pouring down my face at the memories of how it all went wrong, how none of us turned out to be queens, that we lost so much, including, in my case, my motherland. Gabriela Mistral is from the Elqui Valley, which is where my father's from. When he was a child he met her.

2. Kenneth Oppel asks, "Would you ghostwrite a trashy book if you were offered enough?"

Totally. It would be a great piece of trash. I am addicted to the tabloids, so this would be right up my alley.

3. Rachel Cusk asks, "Have you ever tried to express yourself in another art form?"

I come from playwriting, which is so very different from prose. It's harder, I find. I think it's akin to poetry. The form is so taut, so limiting, it's just really hard to be succinct and to grab the audience in the first minute and make sure to never let them go. Writing prose has been a huge relief for me. I remember when I was writing my first book, my editor would often say, "You know that you can go on here for much longer, right? We really want to get into this character's head." That was such a great revelation for me! Right! I can go ON! It was wonderful.

4. Helen Humphreys asks, "If you write in a room with a window, what is the view out of that window?"

I write in a corner of my one-bedroom basement suite in East Vancouver. If I look to my right there is a window that looks out into the street. Across the way there is an old wooden house, typical of the original ones in this neighbourhood. It's a comforting view.

5. Richard Van Camp asks, "What's the story you'll never write about that haunts you? It could be delicious. Yes, that's the one we want to know. What is your delicious that you'll never write about? What. Is. It?"

Oh, you know. Deep, dark, shocking secrets that run in my family that I simply can't share.

6. Russell Smith asks, "Have you ever stolen someone else's idea?"

No. I don't think I need to. I have too much excellent material of my own to draw from. Although I often read a book or go see a play and think, "Dang! Why didn't I think of that?"

7. Billie Livingston asks, "Rilke said, 'A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity.' Do you think that's true? Do you feel that writing is an absolute necessity in your life?"

Yes, writing is an absolute necessity in my life. I believe that to be a writer (or an actor, or any kind of artist) it really must be your calling. I don't believe that you choose writing, I believe that it chooses you.

8. Will Ferguson asks, "Do you socialize with other writers? Why or why not?"

Yes, I do socialize with other writers when I can. It's hard for me to socialize with the theatre community simply because I hate talking about work when we're supposed to be socializing, but writers haven't tired me out yet. It's always wonderful to talk to fellow writers, to share with people who understand what it means to go through a writing process, to put their work out there, and to do that over and over again. I like hanging out with people who are as curious as me, who ask personal questions, who always want to know more. In short, who are always looking for the story in something.

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